The 5 REAL (But Surprising!) Reasons You're Not Losing Weight

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Despite your best efforts to follow a strict yet healthy eating plan, have you hit a wall when it comes to weight loss?

You’re not alone on your weight loss plateau.

Counting calories and watching what you eat are essential to weight loss, but there are other factors that influence whether you drop pounds. Factors you haven't even considered could be contributing to your lack of progress, but there are tried-and-true methods of battling them head-on and getting back on your path to personal development.

1. You're chronically stressed. 

During periods of stress, the hormone cortisol is secreted from the adrenal glands. Although, cortisol is important for maintenance of blood pressure and provision of energy, it also increases appetite and cravings.

This hormonal imbalance can sabotage weight loss. The excess cortisol secreted during times of stress encourages the body to store visceral fat, which is the kind of fat that surrounds vital organs and raises cholesterol and insulin levels. One study established a connection between high cortisol levels and Type 2 diabetes.

However, there are a lot of simple ways to beat stress and regulate cortisol levels:

  • Meditate: Sit in a quiet place for several minutes each day and focus on one thing, such as your breathing, a phrase, or a peaceful scene.
  • Exercise: Just 20 minutes a day can lower your stress hormone levels. Try walking, yoga, or biking to dissipate any extra energy.
  • Avoid caffeine: Caffeine is a natural stimulant that increases adrenaline levels. Instead of reaching for caffeine, try herbal tea instead.
  • Deep breathing: Breathing deeply increases your oxygen levels, which relaxes you. Breathe in slowly for 3 counts through your nose, making sure to fill your belly with each breath. Breath out slowly for 4 counts through your mouth. Repeat for one minute.
  • Enjoy a hobby: Make sure to carve out time to do something you enjoy. Take up gardening, read a book, scrapbook, sing- just take time to do something that makes you happy.

2. You have a secret food intolerance. 

Gluten sensitivity or intolerance could be a contributing factor in your weight plateau. Those sensitive to gluten have loose junctions in their intestinal lining, which causes toxins and undigested food particles to travel through the bloodstream.

The immune system launches an attack on these particles, thus spurring chronic health issues. If you think you might be sensitive to gluten or other inflammatory foods like dairy, try a total elimination diet and track your body’s reaction. You may find that you feel fantastic almost immediately.

Fighting food intolerance is two-fold:

  • Remove gluten or other dietary triggers. Make sure to eliminate all foods containing gluten or dairy from your diet, no exceptions!
  • Replace with alternatives. Instead of loading the bread and crackers on your plate, go for quinoa and veggies. Finding healthy foods that taste great will make the transition so much easier.

3. You're not getting enough sleep. 

Not getting adequate sleep can stall your fat loss efforts. You should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Sleep balances our fat-regulating hormones and reduces daytime food cravings.

One study followed nurses long term and found an association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women.

Feel like your sleep is suffering? Here are some of my best tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Set a regular bedtime and wake time: Make sure to go to bed at around the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every day. Keep this consistent to get in sync with your body’s natural wake and sleep cycle.
  • No caffeine before bed: Caffeine can cause sleep problems even 10 hours after consuming it. Make sure to limit your caffeine intake and have an early afternoon cutoff.
  • Turn off computer or television an hour before sleep: The blue light your computer and TV suppresses melatonin production and stimulates your mind. Read a book or do gentle yoga stretches before bed
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise reduces stress and promotes better sleep.
  • Avoid that nightcap: Alcohol may help some fall asleep faster, but it reduces sleep quality, causing middle of the night wake-ups.
  • Cool room temperature: A room that’s too hot or cold impacts sleep. Keep your room slightly cool, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Dark room: Light affects melatonin levels, so use heavy curtains or a sleep mask to block excess light.

4. You're snacking too much.

We all set out with the best intentions for losing weight. Even if you’re acing your main meals, you may be slacking when it comes to snack time.

In general, eating raises our insulin levels, and insulin is responsible for storing excess carbohydrates, including sugars, as fat. If snacking raises your caloric intake above a certain level, you’re not going to see any weight come off. With a proper diet of lean protein, healthy fats, and high fiber, you should need to eat meals every four to six hours.

I recommend keeping a food journal as the quickest and easiest way to conquer snack attacks. Download my FREE Food Journal here.

When it comes to snacking, make sure to snack right. Here are a few of my favorite healthy snack ideas:

5. You're overdoing it on the cardio.

If you’re spending more than one hour working out, this may elevate your cortisol levels and be counterproductive to your goals. Twenty to 30 minutes of interval training will burn fat and get you past your weight loss plateau.

I’ve discussed cardio a lot on my YouTube channel. If you have a specific question about the best types of cardio for fat-burning, I’ve probably addressed it. Click here for insider tips on optimizing your cardio workouts without burning yourself out.

If you have a question that I haven’t answered, please leave it in the comments section below this post. I’d love to hear from you, so I can help you out!

Other quick and dirty tips for keeping your cardio in the sweet spot:

Yuri Elkaim is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and author of the NYTimes Best-selling book "The All-Day Energy Diet." In his upcoming book, "The All-Day Fat-Burning Diet" (Rodale, 2015) he walks readers through a 5-day food cycling program guaranteed to double your weight loss. Look for it in bookstores December 2015.

This article was originally published at Yurielkaim. Reprinted with permission from the author.